No To ABS-CBN Shutdown!

GABRIELA USA condemns the Duterte administration for shutting down ABS-CBN amid a global pandemic. To silence one of the largest media outlets in the Philippines is to neglect the role of media amid a global health crisis. This is a deliberate attack on press freedom and the public’s right to information.

#NoToABSCBNShutdown

#DefendPressFreedom

#MediaFightBack

Working Women Rise From New York City to the Philippines

For Immediate Release

May 2, 2020

Reference: Irma Shauf-Bajar,  Chairperson GABRIELA USA Gabrielawomen@gmail.com

 

Working Women Rise From New York City to the Philippines

May 1st – In honor of the historical legacy of International Workers Day and the Haymarket Massacre where workers fought for the 8 hour work week, dozens of virtual participants joined from across the US and from the Philippines in GABRIELA USA and One Billion Rising’s virtual rally to RISE in solidarity for all workers –  health care workers, cruise ship workers, overseas workers, restaurant workers, grocery workers, agricultural workers, domestic workers, and other workers who call for safe working conditions, livelihood, health care, and affordable housing. The virtual action featured speakers directly from the Philippines, Monique Wilson, the Global Director of One Billion Rising and from the frontlines, Cris Hilo, Registered Nurse in New York City and GABRIELA New York Member. Women workers account for more than half of the working class and have played and continue to play an important role in contributing to the struggle of the working class. 

During this historic time of global health crisis under COVID-19, people around the world are beginning to see the failings of an economic system that deprioritizes the health and well-being of the people. The devastating impacts of imperialism are largely felt by the working class, left to fend for themselves with a for-profit healthcare system, under-resourced hospitals, and slow response from government agencies, contributing to high infection and death ratios.  

“We must expose the US and Philippine government’s inept and opportunistic responses to this public health crisis, which have favored market-driven and militarized responses—illustrating that the ultimate crisis is imperialism, which is at the root of the state’s inability to effectively and efficiently respond to the needs of the people,” stated Irma Shauf-Bajar, Chairperson of GABRIELA USA.

Monique Wilson spoke on the situation in the Philippines and similarities to the experience of women from over 200 countries who participate in One Billion Rising’s global movement to end violence against women and girls. Fascist governments like Duterte’s find ways to criminalize community efforts to respond to COVID-19, as in the case of the Marikina 10–a group of community volunteers, including a GABRIELA member, who were arrested while running a soup kitchen on May 1st. “Even when the city’s Mayor had stated that the arrested community volunteers should be released, the Philippine National Police (PNP), did not release them. We know that once one is in custody they can continue to bring trumped up charges against you,” Wilson said. “Despite that, we’re seeing all workers and communities finding ways to continue to express social solidarity and continue to organize and mobilize.”

In the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, Cris Hilo, who works as a nurse in Brooklyn–one of the hardest hit boroughs–brought the audience to tears. “If we did not continue to organize, we would not have seen a change in getting our equipment,” she said.  Hilo credited community actions in solidarity with the health care workers and stated, “We must continue to build a workers movement. We must continue to fight for a better society.”

GABRIELA USA and One Billion Rising ended the virtual rally by using the art of dance to collectively express solidarity with billions of workers around the world. GABRIELA USA and One Billion Rising called on participants to join organizations like GABRIELA and One Billion Rising to collectively take action, to sign Migrante International’s global petition, to join in future actions for the OUST campaign against the US-Duterte regime, and to support GABRIELA USA’s calls to ensure resources go to healthcare systems in the Philippines and the US, and not towards militarization in the Philippines. 

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EVERYDAY PEOPLE RESPOND: NO TO EMERGENCY POWERS FOR DUTERTE

For Immediate Release

March 23, 2020

Reference: Irma Shauf-Bajar, National Chairperson, GABRIELA USA gabrielawomen@gmail.com

 

EVERYDAY PEOPLE RESPOND: NO TO EMERGENCY POWERS FOR DUTERTE

 

Philippine President Duterte called on Congress to declare a state of emergency in the country, granting him special emergency powers, a response claimed as necessary by the President to address the current COVID-19 pandemic. GABRIELA USA says Duterte already has the means to address the health crisis without emergency powers. In the Philippines and in the US, grassroots organizations like GABRIELA continue organized peoples’ response actions to COVID-19 to help address immediate needs of working class women, families, and children amidst the Philippine and US government’s inept response to the pandemic. 

With Duterte’s record of abusing state powers to violate the people’s rights, Duterte’s move for emergency powers will enable him even more to push forward undeclared martial law in the country. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 worldwide and in the Philippines, the US-Duterte regime has used the pandemic as an excuse to respond with military action instead of a comprehensive medical response for the Filipino people. 

“Duterte should provide mass testing and medical care to Filipinos vulnerable to COVID-19. Instead he has increased military and police checkpoints, continues to surveil and harass those who are speaking up with the poor and marginalized of Philippine society, and has left those on the frontlines without adequate equipment, supplies, and personnel,” said Irma Shauf-Bajar, Chairperson of GABRIELA USA. “In this time of crisis it has been the people who are responding to address the needs of the poor and working class. We need an emergency response, not emergency powers.”

Collective efforts continue through community partnerships and grassroots efforts in the Philippines as well as in the US. In the Philippines GABRIELA, with the CURE COVID-19 Network, has been able to organize soup kitchens, post informational posters, and distribute sanitation kits, one-week food supply, and hand-sewn face masks. GABRIELA USA reiterates BAYAN USA’s five demands in response to emergency powers granted to Duterte:

  1. NO TO EMERGENCY POWERS of the Duterte government.
  2. END MILITARIZATION of Manila and Luzon
  3. GUARANTEE FREE MASS TESTING for all
  4. IMMEDIATELY REALLOCATE FUNDING for food assistance, healthcare services, staffing, and equipment for all healthcare facilities in the Philippines
  5. STOP THE ONGOING STATE REPRESSION, DISPLACEMENT, AND EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS of the rural and urban poor, advocates for the poor, and critics of Duterte

Organizing the People’s Action for Health and Human Rights

For Immediate Release

March 20, 2020

Contact: Irma Shauf-Bajar, National Chairperson, gabrielawomen@gmail.com

 

Organizing the People’s Action for Health and Human Rights

 GABRIELA USA joins the fight against inept government response in the time of COVID-19 

 

During this time of ever growing cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), GABRIELA USA joins the global community in calling for continual organizing and the assertion of the people’s need for free and accessible healthcare as a basic human right. As COVID-19 grips communities in the Philippines and around the world, we will continue to see the heightening contradictions of Imperialism, revealing the cracks in both Philippine and US systems that do not serve the people. We see these systems that prioritize profit and the militarization and criminalization of communities, instead of systems that ensure the well being of the people and protect their overall basic human rights. 

 

In the US Filipinos remain in the frontline of the pandemic as medical staff, nurses, caregivers, grocery store workers, food service workers, delivery drivers, and seafarers who continue their work, in what have been deemed essential industries. For poor and working class Filipinos, like the rest of the working class in the US, cuts in work hours and the lack of a financial safety net from Trump’s administration during the pandemic has made poor families vulnerable to evictions and utility shut offs. Meanwhile the US government has prioritized the bailing out of Wall Street with $1.5 trillion injected into the financial system.

 

In the Philippines the Duterte regime focuses on further militarization rather than providing adequate medical solutions to control the spread of COVID-19 and protecting public health. Enhanced Community Quarantine began in Metro Manila, and now extends for all of Luzon, restricting travel in and out of the area from March 15 until April 14 but also prohibiting mass gatherings during the period. The Duterte regime has militarized the lockdown by deploying 40,000 armed military and police across the National Capital Region and in other provinces to enforce checkpoints. 

 

No action has been taken by the Philippine government to address continuing problems with the provision of water to communities throughout Metro Manila, increasing the likelihood of the spread of the virus amongst poor communities who cannot wash their hands frequently, due to lack of access to water. Supplies needed for public protection (such disinfectants) also have not been distributed. 

 

Duterte’s regime has failed in not providing timely and accurate information to the public on how to combat COVID-19. Duterte has not ensured the allocation of enough resources to provide widespread free testing and monitoring, nor has he secured sufficient basic supplies such as N95 facemasks and other personal protective equipment needed to protect healthcare workers on the frontlines serving those infected. The Duterte regime also has not created systems to safely quarantine and treat infected persons in facilities. The dire healthcare situation in the Philippines reflects the slashes made in the national budget, by Duterte, that reduced state funding for healthcare infrastructure, which is desperately needed to curb the spread of COVID-19.  

 

Under Duterte’s Enhanced Community Quarantine, many workplaces have either laid off workers or decreased their hours. Duterte has locked down Metro Manila without putting in place protections for workers to maintain their livelihoods and has offered no financial assistance for workers’ lost wages. Without assistance from Duterte’s government, Filipino workers face an additional health crisis as they fight off hunger and struggle to feed their families with shrinking incomes or with no work. 

 

The Duterte regime has imposed its militarized Enhanced Community Quarantine supposedly to address the spread of COVID-19, but has instead used the lockdown to press down further on democratic rights and unleash more fascism on the people.  Duterte claims that the lockdown is not martial law but the armored police and military he has deployed threaten and harass the people and have created more fear and panic. GABRIELA USA denounces all attempts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to use COVID-19 and the declaration of Enhanced Community Quarantine as a cover to justify human rights violations against activists and others speaking out against Duterte’s anti-people policies.

 

The fight against COVID-19 in the Philippines should be handled through providing medical and social services by civilian authorities, such as public health experts and healthcare workers, and not by fear mongering and intimidation by military and police forces. Instead of a militarized lockdown Duterte’s regime should provide a comprehensive response to combat the spread of COVID-19. We reiterate GABRIELA’s calls to address the demands of the people:

 

  • Free medical testing services in every barangay instead of police and military presence in our communities
  • Immediate re-alignment of the P27.1-billion national spending budget, and if still necessary, the President Duterte’s P4.5 billion confidential and intelligence funds for COVID-19 prevention, monitoring, testing and treatment
  • Free distribution of health kits in every barangay: face masks, alcohol, vitamin C, and massive information drive on how to deal with COVID-19, not warnings and threats of arrests
  • Concrete alternative solutions and government assistance package for all affected workers
  • Strict regulation of prices especially for our basic needs
  • 24/7 uninterrupted supply of running and clean water for every household and suspension of any water rate hike
  • Adequate government support for our local scientists and frontline health workers

 

Filipino women remain on the frontline, both in workplaces and at home, in crucial positions that impact the health of our community, families and children. GABRIELA USA takes seriously the recommendations and health precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19.  GABRIELA USA calls on members and supporters to organize a collective people’s response to protect against the spread of the virus, and also to protect the most marginalized of our societies–workers who continue to provide necessary services and goods despite risks posed by COVID-19, the poor, the sick and vulnerable. In the face of the failing systems in the US and the Philippines, let us advance with determination and decisiveness the people’s movement, to defend our communities. Now more than ever let us unite collectively to defend not only against COVID-19, but also to fight for the peoples’ right to livelihood, a free and accessible healthcare system for all, and freedom from militarization and repression! 

 

Proteksyon sa kalusugan at kabuhayan! (Protection for health and livelihood!)

Solusyong medikal, hindi aksyong militar! (Medical solutions, not military action!)

 

A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN CHANGING THE WORLD! IWWD 2020 Post Statement

For Immediate Release

March 10, 2020

Contact: Irma Shauf-Bajar, National Chairperson, gabrielawomen@gmail.com

 

A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN CHANGING THE WORLD!

 

GABRIELA USA’s members joined twenty-five thousand women in the Philippines and women around the globe to demand land, jobs, and rights on March 8, International Working Women’s Day (IWWD). From Palestine to Mexico, from India to Chile, women human rights defenders came out in full force on IWWD to demand their governments be held accountable for the ongoing violence against women and uphold their human rights. As GABRIELA USA, we marched in solidarity alongside working women, Trans and gender non conforming communities on March 8 around the world, and we will continue the call to defend Filipino women in the Philippines, in the US, and globally. 

 

“The culminating activity shows our vision of Inang Bayan’s freedom from oppression. We face many challenges today but we will persevere until we realize a society where equality, social justice, and real democracy reign. As always, women will be part of making such society possible,” said Joms Salvador, Secretary General, GABRIELA, of their mass actions in the Philippines on IWWD.

 

Under Philippine President Duterte, Filipino women and their families continue to suffer job insecurity and unemployment, rising costs of basic goods and services, land grabbing and displacement. Due to Duterte’s anti-people economic policies,16 million FIlipino women are economically insecure and struggle to survive and meet the needs of their families. Duterte’s administration has failed to create jobs in the country, causing more than 6,000 Filipinos to migrate abroad everyday for work, majority of whom are women. 

 

With the alarming number of human rights abuses perpetrated by an increasingly militarized state in the Philippines, GABRIELA USA members joined in solidarity with other women’s organizations across the US to oppose US militarism and the increased violence wrought against women, children, and their communities around the world with the presence of US troops. A month ago, the Philippine government sent a notice for termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) to the United States. But since then, Duterte’s administration and the United States have been in talks to create a new defense agreement, similar to the VFA.

 

“Filipino women demand that the Duterte’s administration follow through not just with ending the VFA, but with terminating all unequal military agreements like the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. These agreements allow US troops to commit rape and other violence against Filipina women and children with impunity, and the agreements violate the sovereignty of the Philippinse. There can be no substantial change until we end all unequal military agreements, and GABRIELA USA will continue to fight until we achieve that,” stated Irma Shauf-Bajar, Chairperson, GABRIELA USA.

 

GABRIELA USA will continue to build our collective resistance and power alongside our allies and comrades in the struggle against US intervention, with our sisters from Palestine, Brazil, and Ecuador. We link in struggle against the disappearance and repression of human rights activists in Mexico and Honduras. In the US, we rise alongside working class women and TGNC communities fighting for basic human rights, fair and affordable housing, and the end to state sanctioned violence by means of extrajudicial killings of working class women. We honor the thousands of women who boldly put their bodies on the line during the 1908 factory strike that led to the establishment of International Working Women’s Day and we are committed in continuing to build and advance the global anti-imperialist women’s movement!

 

DEFEND FILIPINO WOMEN! DEFEND GABRIELA!

WORKING WOMEN OF THE WORLD UNITE!

LONG LIVE INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY!!

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GABRIELA WOMEN CONDEMN WARRANTS OF ARREST AND ACCUSATION OF CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES OF GABRIELA NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBERS

GABRIELA USA condemns the issuing of warrants of arrest  and criminal accusations  on GABRIELA National Executive Committee members, Joms Salvador and Gert Libang, and leaders of Karapatan and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines made by General Hermogenes Esperon. 

They posted bail five days before the global commemoration of International Women’s Day on March 8, when women the world over take the stage of resistance to demand rights and liberation for toiling women. 

“This is entirely why women continue to fight, despite repression and attacks, because we have the right to speak and tell the truth, and no one, not even macho-fascist leaders should be allowed to wrest that right away from us.

In defense of Filipino women and in defense of our right to speak truth to power, we rise and stand our ground,” Joms Salvador, GABRIELA

#HandsOffWomen #DefendFilipinoWomen #DefendGabriela #IWD2020

GABRIELA USA to PNP: Release Cora Agovida and Mickael Tan Bartolome! Drop the Trumped Up Charges! DEFEND THE DEFENDERS!

For Immediate Release

Oct 31, 2019

Contact: Irma Shauf-Bajar, National Chairperson, gabrielawomen@gmail.com

 

GABRIELA USA to PNP: 

Release Cora Agovida and  Mickael Tan Bartolome! Drop the Trumped Up Charges!

DEFEND THE DEFENDERS!

 

As Pilipino American History Month comes to a close in the U.S., alarming news about more heinous attacks on human rights defenders in the Philippines broke the news this morning. GABRIELA USA condemns these ongoing attacks under the Duterte government.

The offices of Bayan Muna Partylist, the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), and Gabriela in Bacolod, Negros Occidental were simultaneously raided in the dead of the night, along with the private residence of Bayan Muna Partylist’s Romulo Bito-on and his wife Mermalyn. In total, 62 people were arrested and are being branded as “communist rebels”, including 6 minors that the Philippine National Police (PNP) claims they “rescued” during the raid. During the invasion of the offices, state forces were carrying long firearms, which terrified and traumatized young children who were present at Gabriela’s office. 

 

Several firearms and grenades were reportedly “recovered,” and among those arrested at the Gabriela office was Anne Krueger of the newly established alternative media outfit Paghimutad, which has been covering social issues, including extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses. 

 

These raids come on the heels of the illegal arrest of Cora Agovida, the Metro Manila chairperson of Gabriela, and her husband Mickael Tan Bartolome of the urban poor group Kadamay earlier that day. The PNP claims that a .45 caliber pistol and two grenades were seized from their home during the arrest. 

These arrests were conducted right before a three day holiday weekend in the Philippines, clearly a tactic to bar due process since the courts will be closed and legal support for all the victims of the arrests will be delayed. 

 

Nobody is safe from Duterte’s tyranny. Activists, journalists, progressive legislators, farmers, and even children are all targets of repression. Evidence is planted, legal organizations are branded as communist fronts, and workplaces and homes of civilians are forcefully invaded. This onslaught of intimidation and attacks is a part of the all-out crackdown on human rights defenders and government critics  under Duterte’s Oplan Kapanatagan (Operation Stability). 

 

As Piipino American History month concludes, let us best celebrate by honoring the Filipino people’s long history of resistance to foreign invasion, occupation, colonial rule, dictatorship, and authoritarianism. This resistance continues under the executive abuse of power by the Duterte government to silence its critics and eliminate our hard-won democracy. Let us call for an end to the state crackdown on those who speak out against tyranny and repression, against extrajudicial killings and abuse of power in the halls of Malacanang.

 

With the Philippines as the largest recipient of US military aid in the Asia-Pacific region, GABRIELA USA calls on its members and supporters in the US to join us in the campaign to stop the flow of US tax dollars to the Philippine government that are linked to these state-sponsored human rights abuses. 

 

GABRIELA USA plans to mobilize in actions jointly with BAYAN USA starting on Sunday November 3rd and we urge all organizations and individuals to join us in indignation against the fascist Duterte regime and in solidarity with all human rights defenders in the Philippines!

 

RELEASE CORA AGOVIDA and MICKAEL BARTOLOME!

DROP THE CHARGES!

STOP THE RAIDS!

STOP THE ATTACKS!

DEFEND DEMOCRACY!

 

SINO ANG TERRORISTA? MIPCEL-AFP SILA ANG TERRORISTA!

 

For Immediate Release

July 23, 2019

Contact: Irma Shauf-Bajar, National Chairperson, gabrielawomen@gmail.com

 

SINO ANG TERRORISTA? MIPCEL-AFP SILA ANG TERRORISTA!

 

GABRIELA USA condemns the assault and harassment of GABRIELA USA and BAYAN USA members by the hosts and participants of the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Council of Elders (MIPCEL) Duterte backed tour in the US. Concerned Filipinos and allies disrupted the MIPCEL event in Arlington, Virginia to expose the truth that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Duterte government are primarily responsible for the mass killings and displacement of Lumad people, and these touring “leaders” are in fact members of the AFP, paramilitary forces, are Lumad sell outs and have become traitors to the Lumad communities they claim to represent.

 

On July 22nd, 50 concerned Filipinos and allies from around the US participated in the direct action to protest the lies presented by the representatives of the MIPCEL Duterte backed tour. Protesters walked into the event venue with taped mouths and holding signs. The MIPCEL representatives and attendees reacted violently, and physically assaulted several protestors including grabbing two women’s breasts. Protesters removed their taped mouths and chanted “AFP-MIPCEL, STOP LUMAD KILLINGS! SAVE OUR SCHOOLS!” This comes a week after protesters, including GABRIELA members, were aggressively grabbed and physically dragged out of the MIPCEL Duterte backed tour stop at the Los Angeles consulate on July 15th.

 

GABRIELA USA members have consistently participated in integrations with Lumad communities and the Lumad community schools. Children’s access to education is a human right and an important pillar in any community, especially for the Lumad whose ancestral lands are constantly threatened by the presence of foreign mining corporations, the AFP, and paramilitary groups like ALAMARA who are responsible for the series of deaths of Lumad people and Lumad leaders. It is important for Lumad community schools like Alcadev, MISFI Academy, and the Salugpungan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Centers to teach literacy to their students, especially as groups like MIPCEL serve as contract negotiators between indigenous tribes and private business, deceiving Lumad into signing away ancestral land.  

 

GABRIELA USA condemns these attacks on our women who have put their bodies on the line to expose and oppose the MIPCEL as agents of the AFP and traitors to the lumad communities whose schools are occupied and shut down by military forces and by the Duterte government’s Department of Education. We continue to support the Lumad community schools like Alcadev, MISFI Academy, Salugpungan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Centers, their communities, students, and teachers. 

 

STOP LUMAD KILLINGS!

SAVE OUR SCHOOLS!

AFP-MIPCEL OUT OF LUMAD COMMUNITIES!

 

GABRIELA USA Commemorates Jennifer Laude’s Death Anniversary With Nationwide Screenings of “Call Her Ganda,” Calls On Filipino Americans to Resist Duterte and U.S. Military Occupation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Contact: Irma Shauf-Bajar, National Chairperson, gabrielawomen@gmail.com

 

GABRIELA USA Commemorates Jennifer Laude’s Death Anniversary With Nationwide Screenings of “Call Her Ganda,” Calls On Filipino Americans to Resist Duterte and U.S. Military Occupation

Community Screening in Los Angeles, California

 

U.S.A. — On October 11th, the four year anniversary of Jennifer Laude’s death, GABRIELA USA held screenings and discussions of PJ Raval’s documentary, Call Her Ganda, in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Seattle. The screenings were part of GABRIELA USA’s larger campaign: RISE Against Fascism, RESIST Militarization, UNITE for Self-Determination!

 

Jennifer Laude, 26-year-old Filipina trans woman murdered by US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton in Olongapo, Philippines, drew international attention to the unpopular occupation of the United States military and the epidemic of violence against women in the Philippines.

 

In the ensuing fight for justice for Jennifer Laude, GABRIELA USA exposes and condemns the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), a military pact that governs the entry and presence of American troops in Philippine territory. As seen in the case of Laude, the VFA works to grant US troops immunity from prosecution under Philippine law, enforce unequal relations between the US and Philippines, trample on Philippine sovereignty, and expand militarization to the detriment of human rights.

 

“We must rise against fascism, resist militarization, and unite for self-determination, especially in the face of deepening dictatorship under Duterte, whose fascist rule is funded directly by Trump’s pro-war, pro-occupation administration and $184.5 million in U.S. tax dollars,” says Irma Shauf-Bajar, Chairperson of GABRIELA USA. “The mass protests following Jennifer Laude’s brutal death and the high profile attempts by the United States military to circumvent the Philippine legal infrastructure on behalf of her murderer, Pemberton, are a reminder that the Filipino people, including Filipinos in the United States, must continue to fight tyranny, its foreign backers, and vile policies that allow for US occupation like the VFA.”

 

During the screenings, GABRIELA USA chapters held panel discussions to reflect on the film, Jennifer’s life, and justice for her murder as it relates to the roles the US government and Duterte’s dictatorship play in perpetuating violence in the Philippines.

Community Screening in New York City followed by panel discussion with director, PJ Raval
“It hurts still to think about Jennifer Laude, the rage and thought that she and many other Jennifers aren’t coming back to us,” said Jill Mangaliman, Gabriela Seattle member, after watching Call Her Ganda at the GABRIELA USA community screening. “We remember her murder at the hands of U.S corporal Scott Pemberton, her death which galvanized a movement for justice, for Trans rights, and to end the VFA and all forms of US imperialism in the Philippines. My heart breaks every time i see your face, sister Jennifer, but I remain determined.”
Community Screening in San Francisco

GABRIELA USA will continue to sponsor Call Her Ganda screenings and community forums nationwide to commemorate Jennifer Laude and demand for her justice. We invite our community to join us in fighting for Jennifer.

Upcoming screening includes:

October 17, Washington D.C. with Director, PJ Raval

November 20, Portland, Oregon on Trans Day of Resilience/Remembrance

Filipino American Women Outraged by the Removal of ‘ Comfort Women’ Statue in the Philippines

For Immediate Release

April 30, 2018

Contact: Irma Shauf-Bajar, National Chairperson, gabrielawomen@gmail.com

 

Filipino American Women Outraged by the Removal of ‘ Comfort Women’ Statue in the Philippines

 

Like a thief in the night, the Philippine government insidiously dismantled and covertly removed a bronze statue facing Manila Bay on Roxas Boulevard, effectively removing one of the rare monuments that symbolized and honored the Filipino WWII “Comfort Women,” affectionately called “Lolas.” More than 400,000 women and girls across the Pacific, from Korea, China, Indonesia, and the Philippines, were forced into sex camps and violently made to serve as sex slaves for the Japanese Imperial Army during WWII.

 

GABRIELA USA strongly condemns the removal of the “Comfort Woman” statue, a memorial that was established due to the hard-fought struggle of women’s rights advocates, historians, and activists. The Philippine government workers claimed in Kyodo News that the memorial was removed so that pipes could be laid underground and claimed that they would return the monument afterward, which is dubious considering the government did not inform any of the stakeholders of the statue’s removal. And yet, according to the Japanese Embassy in Manila, the Philippine government had notified the embassy of its intention to remove the statue that was erected in December 2017. The embassy had protested the statue and demanded it be taken down since its erection, and Foreign Affairs Secretary, Alan Cayetano, said in The Japan Times: “The Philippines cannot strengthen its relationship with Japan if it keeps inflaming a matter that is considered ‘settled.'” This response from Cayetano is factually false and incorrect on all accounts: to this day, the Japanese government has not sincerely or legally issued an official apology to the “Comfort Women,” and the Lolas of the Philippines never received official reparations for their suffering during WWII.

 

Below is a testament from a GABRIELA Oakland member, Melissa R. Sipin:

 

When I visited the moving monument last month in March, I was taken by the statue’s representation of Filipina strength and resilience. The seven-feet bronze sculpture depicted a blindfolded woman in Maria Clara traditional Filipiniana gown in mourning. And yet, standing against the Manila Bay with her head held high, facing the city toward the Japanese Embassy down the road, her strength and resilience was embodied in her fierce stance.

 

The inscription beneath her read: “This monument is a reminder of the Filipino women who were victims of abuses during the occupation of the Japanese forces from 1942-1945. It took a while before they came out into the open to tell their stories.”

 

One of those women, the wife of Major Diego Sipin of the joint Philippine-American army in Northern Luzon, was my own paternal grandmother, my adoptive mother. My grandmother and her sister were held against their own wills in a garrison in Agoo, La Union, where the war first broke out in the Philippines on the Lingayen Gulf. My grandmother was held over six months and gave birth in captivity. She unfortunately died with this secret, and I did not learn of her suffering until her funeral, when my grand aunts came forward during the processional and professed what happened to her and their other sister, who also passed away without ever receiving compensation from the Japanese government.

 

The Philippine government’s removal of the Comfort Woman statue without informing any of the the human rights groups who have fought valiantly to defend the Lolas’ dignity and right to justice, reiterates their complete erasure of what happened to the “Comfort Women” and what happens to countless women during times of war and conflict. Members of GABRIELA USA condemn this violent erasure and constant attack against women and our human rights.

 

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